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Study Finds Pesticides in "Bee-Friendly" Plants

by Josh Vincent — last modified Aug 14, 2013 01:54 PM
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Plants marketed as "bee-friendly" by many home and garden stores may actually contain neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study released today by Friends of the Earth (FOE).

FOE commissioned PhD scientists at the Pesticide Research Institute to examine a sampling of garden plants purchased at top retailers in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area and Minneapolis. The plants were being sold as "bee-friendly," suggesting an absence of chemical treatments that could pose risk to bees. However, when tested, scientists found that seven of the 13 plants contained neonicotinoid pesticides at doses that could harm or kill bees.

Some plants contained low levels of neonicotinoids, but two of the plants contained high enough levels to kill bees directly. An additional three plants had high enough levels to cause "serious harm." 

Sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids, even at low levels, weakens bees and is known to make them disoriented, impairing their ability to navigate to food sources and return to their hives. This effect generally results in bee mortality, and has long been implicated as a primary contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

FOE is urging consumers to confront major retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot and demand that they immediately stop sales of lawn and garden plants that have been pretreated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Visit their website, www.foe.org/beeaction, for more information on this effort.

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Further Action

NCAP is currently working to build support for a bill that would suspend registration for neonicotinoids (effectively banning them) and direct EPA to perform a detailed review of their impacts on bees and other pollinators. Please contact your federal Representative and ask them to co-sponsor this bill!

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